The firm made headlines for its ambitious project of towing icebergs from Antarctica to UAE to meet the emirates’ demand for drinking water last year.
It announced that it had completed the pre-feasibility study for the project last year, and had expected to start the pilot run early this year.
The pilot run was however pushed back to the second quarter of next year, Abdulla Alshehi, managing director of the firm said in response to FoodNavigator-Asia’s queries.
“To some extent, we are finalising some technical issues, and hence we are pushing the actual fieldwork to next year,” he said.
The firm would make further announcements on the transportation techniques it planned to use in December this year.
In a nutshell, the project involves the towing of icebergs from north of Antarctica to Fujairah, the eastern coast of UAE.
The process is expected to take five months, after which, the ice is unloaded to a water processing port.
“(The icebergs) are the freshest tap, but it need a little bit of treatments, because there may be some sediments from dead animals or dead fishes,” he explained.
He hopes that the project will come to fruition by the end of next year. Besides the private market, the firm intends to sell the treated iceberg waters to the government.
Asked if the firm needs to go through any regulatory approval, Alshehi said that since the icebergs were not within the Antarctica protected zone, they were “considered a water resource and subject to acquisition for private use anywhere in the world, according to the Freedom of the High Seas code.”
Cheaper alternative to desalination?
Through the project, the firm hopes to provide an alternative source of drinking water that has a more competitive price as compared to desalination.
“Desalination has been going on for sometimes now, but the process remains incredibly expensive and very energy intensive,” Alshehi commented.
“Every year, many icebergs disintegrate from Antarctica and then they float on the ocean until they melt wasting billions & billions of gallons of the world’s most important resource (fresh water) and causing the sea level to rise. This is also due to global warming. So why not take advantage of what little the nature can offer us.”
On average, an iceberg can provide a hundred million gallon of drinking water for a million of people for five years, he said.
US$50 to 70 million was invested in the pilot run alone, Alshehi revealed.
At present stage, the private project is supported with funds from the UAE investors, while the research team comes from a mix of European countries, such as France, Belgium, and the UK.
The Emirates is among the world's 10 most arid states and about 15% of the world's desalinated water is consumed in the region, local media The National reported.
Suhail Al Mazrouei, UAE’s minister of energy and industry said earlier in this year that water consumption was a "huge concern" the emirates.
He urged every member of society to play their part in reducing the amount of water they consume.